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CSKA, Zenit look to press home narrow advantages in UEFA Cup ties


MOSCOW, February 26 (RIA Novosti) - CSKA Moscow and Zenit St. Petersburg see second leg UEFA Cup action on Thursday evening, with the Muscovites hosting England's Aston Villa and Dick Advocaat's men traveling to Stuttgart, Germany.

CSKA drew 1-1 with Aston Villa in Birmingham in the round of 32 first leg after a superb 14th minute Vagner Love strike had given them the lead and a vital away goal.

Aston Villa manger Martin O'Neil has rested a number of key players, including England internationals Gareth Barry, Gabriel Agbonlahor, Ashley Young, and Emile Heskey, citing the need to concentrate on earning a top four spot in the English Premier League and with it a lucrative 2009/10 Champions League spot.

"We're not giving it up," said O'Neil, however, speaking to the BBC ahead of the game. "Obviously though the advantage is with the Russians."

CSKA striker Alan Dzagoyev dismissed a forecast of snow and minus 2 degrees Celsius (28 Fahrenheit), telling Sport Express that "I have no doubt we will forget about the cold once we get on the pitch. We'll need to keep moving so as not to freeze."

He also dismissed any suggestions that the absence of players such as Young and Barry, Villa's best players in first leg, would give the Russians a massive advantage.

"This doesn't mean that much. Aston Villa have a good substitutes' bench and those players who rarely play in the Premier League will probably be able to replace them. Any footballer who plays in England is ready to battle all over the pitch," he said.

The match will be the first home game for CSKA's Brazilian trainer Zico, who replaced Valery Gazzayev at the end of last year.

Some 20,000 tickets have so far been sold for the game, with around 300 Aston Villa fans expected to make the trip from England. The match kicks off at Moscow's Luzhniki stadium at 8:00 p.m. (17:00 GMT) and will be shown live by Russia's Sport TV channel.

UEFA Cup holders Zenit defeated VfB Stuttgart 2-1 in the first leg in Russia's snowbound northern capital and will be hoping to avenge a UEFA Cup 1989/1990 5-0 defeat in southern Germany.

Zenit are without captain Anatoly Tymoshchuk, who picked up a yellow card in the first leg. His place will be taken by Igor Denisov, scorer of the first goal when Zenit beat Glasgow Rangers 2-0 in last year's UEFA Cup final.

"The first leg turned out like we expected - tough," Konstantin Zyryanov, Russian international and scorer of the second goal in the Manchester final, told Sport Express. "The Petersburg weather also reminded us that it was the first game of the season."

Some 600 Zenit fans are expected to make the trip to Stuttgart. The match kicks off at 8:45 p.m. local time (10:45 p.m. Moscow time, 19:45 GMT).

The winners of the CSKA Moscow-Aston Villa tie will face the victorious side from the Shakter Donetsk-Tottenham Hotspur tie. The Ukrainian club won the first leg 2-0 in Donetsk and Spurs are expected to field a weakened side ahead of this Sunday's League Cup final against Manchester United. The winners of the Stuttgart-Zenit match will take on the winners of the Lech Poznan-Udinese match. The first leg ended 2-2.

The new Russian season kicks off on March 14.

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